Thursday, February 24, 2011

Orphaned or Stolen? The U.S. State Department investigates adoption from Nepal, 2006-2008 (The Huffington Post)

by EJ Graff
Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University
Posted: February 18, 2011
Updated: February 23, 2011

Exclusive State Department internal cables
from Freedom of Information Act requests

Children abducted from their families for international adoption, so that middlemen could profit from Westerners' cash. Families that left their babies temporarily with a child welfare center during times of illness or financial distress--only to discover on returning that, to their horror, their children had been sent away forever to Spain, Italy, or the U.S. A "demand and supply" effect: when international adoptions were suspended, reported "abandonments" drop. Fees that suddenly increase without rhyme or reason--unless orphanages needed more cash for bribes or just out of greed.

That's what the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu was seeing between 2006 and 2008 when it checked into how children had become available for U.S. citizens to adopt, as documented in official internal cables received by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism in response to Freedom of Information Act requests.

read more....

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Republic of the Marshal Islands places temporary ban on US Agency

The Central Adoption Authority in the Republic of the Marshall Islands has instigated an investigation into the activities of a US adoption agency, Journeys of the Heart. During the investigatory period, JOH is banned from submitting new dossiers. The message below is from the RMI Central Adoption Authority and was forwarded to PEAR:

"The RMI Adoption program continues at full stride and is very healthy. However, Journeys of the Heart Adoption agency of Hillsboro, Oregon (JOH) has been banned while the CAA investigates various issues regarding JOH. Currently the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota adoption agency (LSSMN) is approved, and has been approved for processing adoptions from the RMI.

The CAA will process to completion the 12 JOH dossiers that are in the Republic of the Marshall Islands now, but will not accept any more dossiers from JOH. Contrary to what was claimed on various authoritative websites, the Adoptions Act of 2002 (P.L. 2002-64) never named JOH as the only agency allowed to do adoptions in the RMI. The Adoptions Act of 2002 allows any state-licensed agency to approach the CAA. However, the CAA first conducts a due diligence
investigation of the agency before accepting dossiers from them. LSSMN has passed that due diligence process and the CAA is accepting dossiers from them. The CAA may add more agencies, but in a very careful manner, to avoid unethical agencies from adopting from the RMI.

Again, let me stress that the Central Adoption Authority in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is strong and healthy and continues to operate."

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Lesotho Notice
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues

Change in Processing Timeline for Adoption Cases in Lesotho

February 17, 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Maseru, Lesotho wishes to advise adoptive parents of procedural changes that may increase the processing time for some adoption cases. Adoptive parents and adoption service providers should be aware that consular officers are required, by law, to complete an I-604 Determination on Child for Adoption (sometimes referred to as an “orphan investigation”), in all IR-3 and IR-4 adoption cases. Depending on the circumstances of the case, this investigation could take up to several weeks to complete.

When a Form I-600 is adjudicated by USCIS in the United States, consular officers in Maseru must conduct an I-604 investigation to verify the child’s orphan status prior to immigrant visa processing by the U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg. For Form I-600 petitions filed at the U.S. Embassy in Maseru, the I-604 investigation is initiated after the prospective adoptive parents have appeared before a consular officer to sign the petition. Adoptive parents are advised that they need to have flexible travel plans while awaiting the results of the I-604 investigation.

The U.S. Embassy will work with adoptive parents and their adoption agency to ensure that each case is processed in the most expeditious manner possible in accordance with laws and regulations. If families have concerns about their adoption, we ask that they share this information with the Embassy. The Embassy takes all allegations of fraud or misconduct seriously.

The best way to contact the Embassy is by email at Please include your full name, the child’s name, your adoption agency, the date of the adoption (month and year), and, if possible, the immigrant visa case number for the child’s case (this number begins with the letters JHN followed by several numbers, and can be found on any document sent to you by the National Visa Center. Please let us know if we have your permission to share concerns about your specific case with Lesotho government officials.

The U.S. Embassy continues to work with the Government of Losotho to ensure that appropriate safeguards exist to protect adoptive children, their birth parents, and prospective adoptive parents. Please continue to monitor for updated information.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

DOS Adoption Alert: Kenya

Adoption Notice
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues

Adoption Moratorium Lifted

February 10, 2011

Kenya and the United States are party to the

Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (“Hague”). As such, all adoptions between Kenya and the United States initiated after April 1, 2008, must meet the requirements of the Hague Convention and its U.S. and Kenya law counterparts. The Government of Kenya is still in the process of amending its laws to mirror the procedural requirements of the Convention. In late 2010, Kenya adopted a new constitution and the government is currently drafting hundreds of pieces of new legislation required to implement the provisions of the new constitution. Due to this legislative back-log, legislation that will bring Kenya into full compliance with the Hague Convention may not be enacted for quite some time.

Until it is, Kenya’s Department of Children’s Services is willing to make administrative adjustments that will allow it to follow the procedural framework required by the Hague Convention. International adoptions that meet Hague Convention requirements can now be processed in Kenya. However, until Kenya’s international adoption laws are finalized, serious delays, expense, uncertainly, and difficulties could still arise with the Hague adoption process. The Department of State therefore advises American citizens to proceed with caution when deciding whether or not to adopt from Kenya.

The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi continues to be in contact with the High Court of Kenya and their Department of Children’s Services concerning the processing requirements of Hague adoption cases. Please continue to monitor this website for the most updated information as it becomes available.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

DOS Adoption Alert: Ethiopia- Better Futures Adoption Services

Adoption Alert
Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues


February 8, 2011

On December 9, 2010, the Government of Ethiopia revoked the Better Futures Adoption Services’ registration to operate in Ethiopia because of the organization’s misuse of its license in activities concerning the welfare of children.

The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that prospective adoptive parents who have entered into an agreement with Better Futures Adoption Services, or who are planning to adopt through Better Futures Adoption Services, seek the advice of a legal professional.

The Embassy's Adoptions Unit can be reached at

Please continue to monitor for updated information as it becomes available.

Better Futures Revocation of License - Amharic Translation

Better Futures Revocation of License - English Translation

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

DOS Adoption Notice: Guatemala

Adoption Notice

Bureau of Consular Affairs
Office of Children’s Issues

February 3, 2011

Office of Children’s Issues Trip to Guatemala, December 2010 The Department’s Special Advisor for Children’s Issues, Ambassador Susan Jacobs, and the Chief of the Adoptions Unit of the Office of Children’s Issues, Alison Dilworth, travelled to Guatemala from December 6 – 11, 2010 to discuss the status of pending grandfathered adoptions in Guatemala with Guatemalan officials. Rebecca Weichand, Director of Policy for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, also travelled and attended many of the meetings.

The full itinerary included a meeting with Guatemalan President Colom, as well as meetings with the President of the Consejo Nacional de Adopciones (CNA), the Acting Solicitor General of the Procuraduria General de la Nacion (PGN), UNICEF’s country director, the Chief of Adoptions of the Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Commissioner of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Norma Cruz of Sobrevivientes, and the Ministerio Publico (MP). They also visited public and private orphanages.

In their meetings, Ambassador Jacobs and Alison Dilworth expressed the U.S. government’s strong interest in resolution of the estimated hundreds of pending grandfathered adoption cases. They were met with an overall positive atmosphere of cooperation and open discussion and support for intercountry adoptions processed with strong safeguards to protect children and birth parents.

Measures Toward Resolution of Grandfathered Cases

The Office of Children’s Issues (CI) was encouraged by the positive reception on the recent trip, but the process for resolving the final grandfathered caseload remains complex. Pending Guatemalan investigations and court processes must still be resolved, on which a strict timeline cannot be imposed. The following measures to propel resolution were discussed during the visit and are in progress:

  1. Guatemalan officials agreed to identify and release cases without serious anomalies for final processing, and to add additional resources so that more investigators work on resolving the more complex adoption cases.
  2. The U.S. Embassy is creating a current master list of grandfathered cases that will use the existing USCIS caseload as a foundation and cross reference against cases on lists provided by the PGN, CNA and MP. The master list will help us ensure that none of the cases become lost and to monitor their progress.
  3. The Guatemalan government is holding frequent working group meetings to evaluate pending cases and make decisions regarding next steps.
  4. The U.S. Embassy is checking in frequently with the working group to monitor its progress.
  5. The Guatemalans are following up on the President of Guatemala’s pledge to look into the question of lifting travel holds or “arriagos” on cases where adoptions were completed but the cases were connected to an open criminal investigation. We urged President Colom and the MP to separate the children’s cases from the pending criminal investigation wherever possible.

Making Sure the Master List is Complete

On December 20, 2010 Ambassador Jacobs and Alison Dilworth hosted a conference call for prospective adoptive parents to report on their December trip. During the call they asked that all adopting parents with grandfathered cases send their case information to to be sure their cases are included on the master list that CI and the Embassy are compiling. This information was also solicited on the adoptions website.

In response to this request CI has received 63 responses from adopting parents. As a reminder, in order to be considered grandfathered, the case must meet both U.S. and Guatemalan requirements.

Status of Remaining Grandfathered Cases

Since December 1, 2010 the U.S. Embassy has issued 5 immigrant visas for approved adoption cases.

As of December 31, 2010, USCIS Guatemala City had 382 active cases. (Note: This total may include cases in which the petitioner has subsequently decided to abandon the case but did not inform USCIS.) Of these cases:

  • 345 were pre-approved and pending action by the Government of Guatemala; awaiting final adoption documents
  • 32 were pending U.S. petitioner action (i.e. DNA, RFE response, etc.)
  • 2 cases were pending USCIS processing
  • 2 cases pending other U.S. Government action
  • 1 case was pending Consular Section visa interview

In the month of December, 2010, USCIS Guatemala City received final Guatemalan adoption documents for 2 cases AND approved 3 Form I-600 petitions.

  • If the documents are sufficient, the case is processed quickly and referred to consular section for visa appointment.
  • If the final documents do not provide sufficient information to establish that the child meets the definition of an orphan under U.S. immigration law, USCIS Guatemala City issues an RFE – Request for Evidence.

In total, USCIS Guatemala received 30 sets of final documents in 2010.
Since December 2010, the PGN reports that it has released 4 case files for final adoption processing, and identified another case for release after a scheduled court proceeding. The released cases are still working their way through the Registro Nacional de las Personas (RENAP). We have also learned that since December 2010 the MP has released two case files that were under investigation for continued processing.

Guatemalan Working Group

The Guatemalan working group met on January 21, 2011 and will meet weekly. The institutions that participated in this first meeting were the PGN, CNA, MP, and CICIG. The Embassy communicates with each of the institutions that participates in the working group on a regular basis.

Arriagos/travel holds

The U.S. embassy learned that two travel holds, or “arriagos”, have been lifted since December 1, 2010.

Other news

RENAP: One of the questions raised in the December 20, 2010 conference call was whether or not RENAP was purposely delaying intercountry adoption cases. The U.S. Embassy reached out to RENAP regarding its processing. The issue appears to be systemic and not specific to adoptions. RENAP has the responsibility to verify the bona fides of new registrations and processes cases in accordance with its resources. RENAP is currently experiencing significant staffing issues due to a contract dispute that resulted in the contracts for 445 employees lapsing in January 2011 and the positions going unfilled. Despite the difficulties, RENAP continues to issue revised birth certificates for approved adoptions.

Another question raised during the conference call was whether the CNA has the authority under current interpretation of the new law to process intercountry adoption cases. Our current understanding is that the new law created the CNA, and that it can only process cases that were filed since the inception of the CNA, i.e. after the date the law came into effect. In other words, the PGN is the sole authority to process the pending cases and the CNA is the sole authority to process new adoption cases. One of the tasks for the working group will be to review the files of pending cases that were transferred to the CNA and determine on a case-by-case basis how to move forward. This underlines the importance of frequent communication between agencies and the importance of the working group.

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

DOS 2010 Annual Report on Intercountry Adoptions

Text and statistical report now available on the DOS adoption website: Scroll to "Our Publications" in right hand column and click on "Fiscal Year 2010 Annual Report".

Ethics, Transparency, Support
~ What All Adoptions Deserve.